Rupp Racing's Owendale will have one final work in Kentucky before travelling to Saratoga next week for the 150th running of the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers, trainer Brad Cox said Thursday morning.
The Runhappy Travers will be run on Saturday, August 24 as the centerpiece of a card featuring seven stakes and six Grade 1s, including the Grade 1, $850,000 Sword Dancer; Grade 1, $700,000 Personal Ensign presented by Lia Infiniti; Grade 1, $500,000 Ketel One Ballerina; Grade 1, $600,000 Forego presented by Encore Boston Harbor; and Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial presented by Runhappy. Rounding out the blockbuster card is the Grade 2, $400,000 Woodford Reserve Ballston Spa.
Owendale, the third-place Preakness finisher who has compiled a 4-1-2 record through 10 career starts, will be making his first start at the Spa and is coming off a half-length win over Math Wizard in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby on June 22 at Thistledown in his last start.
“He's doing great. He's going to breeze Saturday at Churchill and fly to Saratoga on Tuesday,” Cox said. “We thought all along that he could be a horse who matures with age, and he has. He's responded well. If everything goes well Saturday with the breeze, which we expect it to, he should be ready for the 24th.”
The Into Mischief colt started his sophomore campaign with a win against optional claimers on January 17 at Fair Grounds and stepped up to stakes company with an eighth-place finish in the Grade 2 Risen Star at the same track in February.
Owendale notched his first stakes win next out in the Grade 3 Lexington at 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland, setting him up for his first start in a Classic when he earned black type behind Everfast and winner War of Will in the Grade 1 Preakness on May 18 at Pimlico, marking Cox's first on-the-board finish in a Triple Crown race. Out of that effort, Owendale earned a personal-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure in besting the six-horse Ohio Derby field at 1 1/8 miles. He will now stretch out to the Travers distance of 1 ¼ miles for the first time.
“With Bernardini on the mare side and having Into Mischief, there's probably a little bit of a question mark with a mile and a quarter, but he's a big, leggy horse who covers a lot of ground, so we're optimistic,” Cox said.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott is slated for plenty of stakes action for the Travers Racing Festival, most notably with dual graded stakes winner Tacitus, who is looking to earn his first Grade 1 victory when competing in the Travers.
Tacitus captured the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by NYRA Bets ahead of a Triple Crown run that included being placed third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and a runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets in June.
Juddmonte Farm's gray or roan son of Tapit, out of 2014 Champion Older Filly Close Hatches, was a troubled second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy presented by NYRA Bets last out, where he stumbled coming out of the gate and was shuffled back to last.
Tacitus made up considerable ground down the back straight and after finding racing room at the top of the stretch, the colt made a strong bid but could not reel in eventual winner Tax.
Mott also plans on saddling dual Grade 1-winner Channel Maker for the Grade 1, $850,000 Sword Dancer Invitational. The Ontario-bred English Channel chestnut gelding was a close fourth in the Grade 2 Bowling Green on July 27 last out, where he was fourth, beaten three-quarters of a length as the lukewarm favorite.
Mott said that both horses will put together their final preparations for next Saturday this upcoming weekend.
“Tacitus is doing well, he'll probably work over the weekend,” Mott said. “He fell on his face last time and had a wide trip in the Belmont, but I think at this point we have to consider ourselves lucky that he didn't do a somersault in the last race. Things happen. You get hung up wide and you just hope it works out better the next time.”
A nine-time leading trainer at the Spa, Mott will be seeking his first victory in the “Mid-Summer Derby.”
Mott will attempt to tackle a fourth Sword Dancer victory, having won with Theatrical (1987), Fraise (1992) and Broadway Flyer (1996).
“Channel Maker will probably work on the weekend as well,” Mott said. “He's a difficult horse to ride. He ran a good race [in the Bowling Green] and I don't want to make too many excuses. He was heads up for the lead turning for home.”
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